In the last post, we spoke about the early patriarchal covenant community. I pointed out that while being religiously distinct from those around them, this was not the case when it came to the issue of common grace culture. Moreover, we emphasized that this situation was indeed as it ought to have been. This was for the simple reason that the covenant community had not yet come into possession of the promised land.
To discuss the dynamic shown in this early pilgrim community (in contrast to their later status as theocratic people), theologians make use of a helpful expression — ‘the pilgrim principle’. This, in obvious contrast to another dynamic shown forth in the ‘land/theocratic principle’.
These expressions are both intended to highlight the respective status of God’s people, either as those who have arrived at their promised destination or as those who are in pilgrimage toward that final locality. As a covenant community under the pilgrim principle, it is emphasised that God’s people are those who have not arrived at their final destination. For this reason, they are not to think of themselves as a triumphant theocratic army. Rather, they are (ahem) tolerated sojourners, pilgrimaging along together on the great stage of common culture. Their promised inheritance is real, but it is not yet in full possession.
Much of what we are saying at this point finds an obvious parallel to the time of the New Covenant church. That said, however, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At this point, we should simply note that this principle–the pilgrim principle–is indeed the dynamic under which the patriarchal community found themselves as they walked together in the faith of their fathers.